Small Wars Journal

Why Russia’s Navy in Ukraine War is Doomed (or Irrelevant)

Wed, 04/13/2022 - 4:41pm

Why Russia’s Navy in Ukraine War is Doomed (or Irrelevant)

By Brian E. Frydenborg

Ukraine is about to get (or maybe now just started receiving) Western anti-ship missiles and may even have its own advanced anti-ship missiles almost ready for deployment.  A small number of such missiles could wipe out all of Russia’s big surface warships near Ukraine in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov or push Russian ships out of range and too far away to be able to meaningfully support Russia’s war effort.  This missile technology in the hands of Ukraine’s competent and adaptive fighters will be a game-changer much like Javelin and other anti-tank missiles have been for Ukraine against Russian armor thus far in Putin’s failing war.

By Brian E. Frydenborg, April 13, 2022 (this article has been adapted and condensed from the original, longer version originally published on Brian’s news website Real Context News on April 10 and titled Ukraine Will Easily Destroy or Sideline Russia’s Navy with Game-Changing Anti-Ship Missiles)

An RGM-84 surface-to-surface Harpoon missile launches from a cruiser of the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Department of Defense)

The second major phase of this horrific campaign of the Russian military in Ukraine is underway.  During the first, Russia has not impressed: the bear has been unmasked (it’s more like a rabid, angry cub with birth defects) and Russia has embarrassed itself with historical military malpractice.  And in this second phase, a certain type of weapon can essentially neutralize the Russian Navy and keep the momentum shifting dramatically in Ukraine’s favor.


Rapidly Changing Dynamics

Russia’s insane, hubristic, carelessplan”—to commit forces to multiple fronts, dividing and weakening its forces over these many fronts, none of which individually succeeded in their main goals—is failing and suffered its greatest setbacks when its entire Kyiv front and two other fronts in north-central Ukraine collapsed entirely, all Russian forces in the area having been destroyed, decimated, pushed back, or routed in disorder.  As they have been thrown out of Ukraine, many Russian units are committing war crimes along their paths of retreat if they were not committing them there and elsewhere already, which has generated a huge amount of warranted attention, as has the coming campaign in the east of the country.

But attention is lacking in an area where, with not much additional assistance from the West or perhaps even with aid already just now promised, Ukraine can easily achieve a resounding victory that would combine massive substantive defeats for the Russians with tremendous symbolism and loss of prestige for Russia in addition to greatly affecting the way ground combat plays out in the south and east.

I am talking about the near-annihilation of the Russian Navy presence in the Black Sea, including the entirety or almost the entirety of the substantive portion of the Black Sea Fleet.


Russia’s Big Ships Near Ukraine: Easy Targets…

Unlike armies, with thousands of soldiers, hundreds of units, and thousands of subunits, navies are mostly tied to a very finite number of vessels, almost always dozens or hundreds of vessels per navy at most.

Meaning: take out the ships, and the navy pretty much does not exist.